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Introduction to the Featured Collection: Water Security — New Technologies, Strategies, Policies, and Institutions
Journal of the American Water Resources Association  (IF3.202),  Pub Date : 2021-08-01, DOI: 10.1111/1752-1688.12954
Jun Xia, Michael Campana, Shaofeng Jia, Zhuping Sheng

Water security is arguably one of the top global water issues. A definition of water security is that it is the sustainable availability of water of adequate quantity and quality for a particular use, whether for humans or the environment. It is becoming increasingly important for food security, conflict mitigation, environmental conservation, and economic development. According to Grey and Sadoff (2007), the issue of water security has been the object of increased academic and policy interest over the past decade, although the international water community has used the term “water security” much earlier. In 2000 the concept of water security was introduced in two prominent declarations, namely (1) “A Water Secure World — Vision for Water, Life, and the Environment” introduced by the World Water Council (WWC 2000) and (2) “Towards Water Security: A Framework for Action” published by the Global Water Partnership (GWP 2000). In 2009, the World Economic Forum (WEF) prioritized water security as a global concern, stating that “water security is the gossamer that links together the web of food, energy, climate, economic growth, and human security challenges that the world economy faces over the next decades” (WEF 2011). In 2013, the UN-Water Task Force on Water Security proposed a working definition of water security, aiming to capture the dynamic and constantly evolving dimensions of water and water related issues, offering a holistic outlook for addressing water challenges through the umbrella of water security, and serving as a starting point for dialogue on water security in the UN system (UNU 2013). In 2015 the WEF further reported that “Global water crises — from drought in the world’s most productive farmlands to the hundreds of millions of people without access to safe drinking water — are the biggest threats facing the planet over the next decade. Other global risks are inextricably tied to water management, inadequate and heterogeneous access, increased risks of extreme weather events, failure of national governance, state collapse or crisis; rapid and massive epidemics; and failure to adapt to climate change.”

There are several definitions of water security in the literature (Laušević et al. 2016):
  1. Water security, at any level from the household to the global, means that every person has access to enough safe water at an affordable cost to lead a clean, healthy, and productive life while ensuring that the natural environment is protected and enhanced (GWP 2000).
  2. Water security is the availability of an acceptable quantity and quality of water for health, livelihoods, ecosystems, and production, coupled with an acceptable level of water-related risks to people, environments, and economies (Grey and Sadoff 2007).
  3. Water security is defined as the capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate quantities of acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well-being, and socioeconomic development, for ensuring protection against water-borne pollution and water-related disasters, and for preserving ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability (UNU 2013).
  4. USAID Sustainable Water Partnership defines water security as “the adaptive capacity to safeguard the sustainable availability of, access to, and safe use of an adequate, reliable, and resilient quantity and quality of water for health, livelihoods, ecosystems, and productive economies” (SWP 2017)

Regardless of the definition adopted, water security involves the sustainable development and use of water resources, protection of water systems, protection against water-related hazards (floods and droughts), and the safeguarding of access to water functions and services for humans and the environment. Water security is a precondition for any effective poverty reduction strategy, and for effective environmental sanitation, wastewater management, and flood control (Laušević et al. 2016).

This featured collection includes invited papers from the International Specialty Conference on Water Security: New Technologies, Strategies, Policies, and Institutions convened by the American Water Resources Association and Center for Water Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CWRR-CAS) held on September 16–18, 2019 in Beijing, China. The conference was attended by 180 people, of which approximately three-quarters were from China and the rest from 15 other countries (Ethiopia, Germany, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Mongolia, Pakistan, Singapore, Tajikistan, UK, USA, Uzbekistan). Participants represented 57 research institutes and organizations. The conference was held at the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing, China.

There were three plenary sessions (seven keynote presentations), one panel session, 27 technical sessions including special sessions on central Asian water issues, transboundary water resources, remote sensing, water rights and policy, and other topics (+100 presentations), one poster session (25 poster presentations), and one half-day field trip. Presentations covers the following theme topics:
  1. Application of new technologies such as remote sensing, big data, and artificial intelligence;
  2. Development of strategies, policies, and institutional reforms; and
  3. Enhancement of resilience under changing climate, population growth, and urbanization.
Moreover, they covered:
  • 4. New findings and novel approaches to capturing the dynamic and constantly evolving dimensions of water resources and resolving water-related issues by using new technologies;
  • 5. Real-world experiences (case studies and practical solutions) demonstrating enhancement of resilience under changing climate, growing population, and urban sprawl;
  • 6. Management strategies, policies, and institutional guidelines to address water security and governance issues, sustainable access to adequate quantities of and acceptable quality water; and
  • 7. Ways to promote communications among scientists, managers, engineers, social scientists, stakeholders, and policy and decision makers on water security challenges and solutions.

Based on recommendations of session moderators, we invited authors of selected presentations to submit their full papers or related paper on the same topic for consideration of publication in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association as featured collection series. The guest associate editors (see list below) recruited three expert peer reviewers to evaluate each submission and all papers were evaluated following the publication standards of the journal. We are in debt to all the associate editors and reviewers for their honest and thorough assessment of submitted manuscripts in a timely manner despite the interruptions created due to COVID-19 pandemic. Special thanks go to the Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Venki Uddameri, and Managing Editors, Ms. Corrie Williams and Ms. Kylie Bade.